How Not to Solve the Problem

The Exeter Hospital healthcare worker who picked up unattended syringes of potent narcotics, injected himself, and then either refilled the syringes with saline or replaced them with his own previously used needles, causing at least 32 patients to become infected with Hepatitis C, is not an isolated occurrence. This has happened before and will happen again, unless the real problem is addressed.

The incident is being used as a scare tactic to further a bill requiring certain hospital employees, including lab and medical imaging personnel, to meet national standards in order for the facility to receive Medicare reimbursement.

This will not solve the problem. 
People who are entrusted by a hospital to draw up and administer medicine should be held accountable when they don’t safeguard the medication. Even if they are doctors. Even if they are nurse anesthetists. Even if they are registered nurses. Leaving syringes of narcotics lying about is irresponsible and dangerous. Blaming an addict for picking up these syringes makes no sense.

Instead let’s hold accountable the hospitals that don’t follow their own policies on medication security. Let’s expect to hear how the hospital disciplined the healthcare front line staff that made this tragedy possible through their carelessness.

It has nothing to do with the presence or absence of national licensing standards. It has everything to do with accountability. Until hospitals and their employees are willing to admit their part in this tragedy, nothing will change.

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